Mountain Line lands grant to replace diesel buses with clean, green electric

Proterra, the company that manufactures the electric buses, claims that operating a diesel bus costs $1.03 per mile while its electric buses cost just 19 cents a mile.

Mountain Line will begin replacing its fleet of diesel buses with electric vehicles in the coming year, a move made possible by a federal grant announced on Wednesday.

The Missoula Urban Transportation District received a $500,000 award to begin the conversion. Funding from the federal Low or No Emission Vehicle Program, or “Low-No,” will enable the agency to cover the difference in cost between diesel and electric bus purchases.

“The Low-No award will help us achieve an important goal – beginning the conversion from diesel to electric buses,” said Andrea Davis, chair of the Missoula Urban Transportation District’s Board of Directors.

Davis said Mountain Line was one of only a handful of transit systems chosen for the award, which will enable Mountain Line to purchase two Proterra electric buses in the coming months. The vehicles will be delivered in early 2019.

In competing for the bid, Mountain Line partnered with Center for Transportation and the Environment, as well as the Associated Students of the University of Montana, to develop its proposal.

ASUM put its first electric bus into service last year. Built by Proterra, the vehicles come with rapidly recharging batteries that offer a range of 50 to 150 miles. The company claims that operating a diesel bus costs $1.03 per mile while its electric buses cost just 19 cents a mile.

ASUM estimated the its shift to an electric bus saves more than 123,000 gallons of fuel and cuts carbon emissions by 1,300 tons. Over the life of the vehicle, it believes it will save $89,000.

Mountain Line hasn’t released its own cost-saving estimates, though it believes the shift will reduce local emissions.

“Mountain Line benefits everyone in Missoula by reducing traffic congestion and improving our air quality,” said Davis. “By going to cleaner, quieter, zero-emission buses, those benefits will be even greater.”